I liked working with that age of kids. They were full on energy and ideas, and they were discovering life and formulating dreams and ambitions for their futures. Sure, there were problems. The girls had jealousies and bickerings; the boys had their overly competitive attitudes and sometimes fights. But they were young. They were learning to live.
And the life that Vivian and I were trying to help them learn was a life of service—service to one another, and most of all, service to God. We spent that summer teaching the kids that more important than any personal goals and desires that we may have for ourselves are the goals and desires that God is trying to build in us. We spent the summer trying to instill within these young minds and souls that our highest calling in life is to know God and to walk in the way of Jesus.
After that summer in Ireland, Vivian and I also led other teams of youths to other places. We also had several other experiences working with young people learning to live a life of service, including teaching in a Bible College in Venezuela where we had our discipleship groups of students.
But it was that first summer in Ireland that came to my mind this week, because it was the first time that I became closely involved on a daily basis with the lives of a group of people who were learning to walk with Christ. We worked with those kids every day. We had deep discussions with them and we also joked with them. We laughed with them and cried with them. We played with them and we nursed them back to health when they became ill.
We were their leaders. We were their teachers, their pastors, their doctors, their bosses, their mom and their dad.
I recall that at the end of that summer, when we had returned to the US and we all had parted our ways to go to our homes, I felt as if I had lost a big part of my family. I also remember writing these words to them, each in a letter:
I thank my God in all my memories of you. In every prayer for you, I always pray with joy, because of how you worked with me in the gospel from the first day and even until now. And I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart. For you are all partners in grace with me. God is my witness how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer for you: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to test and prove what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
These were not actually my own words, but they were words that spoke almost exactly my own thoughts and feelings. They were words first written by the Apostle Paul at the beginning of his own letter that he wrote to the church he began in the city of Philippi.
“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart,” Paul wrote. They became also my words.
These were my thoughts at the end of the summer, but I will not say that these were my thoughts every single day of the summer. There were some days when “joy” was the farthest thing from my mind.
Not All Easy
Another thing that I recall about that summer is the tremendous burden that I felt in carrying the weight of responsibility for those kids. Our duties were several. We were in charge of training them for the project. We were responsible for getting them to the airport and through the airport. We had to lead them through customs in England, get them to the dock on the coast to take the ferry across to Ireland, and get them by bus to where we were to stay for the summer. We had to make sure all of these kids, some of them as young as thirteen years old and who had never before been on an airplane or had traveled anywhere, did not get lost, left behind, or lose their luggage or traveling documents. And that was just the first few days!
The entire summer continued with the same weight of responsibility. That initial phase of travel was over (until we returned home), but the new phase of settling into the summer of work and ministry began. Every day there was a new challenge. Sometimes every hour was a new challenge.
The Weight of Leadership
A scripture that came to my mind often during that summer, and one that I think that I must have mentioned often to our kids in the daily Bible studies and prayer times that we held, came from the book of Hebrews. It goes like this:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch over your souls as those who must give an account. To this end, allow them to lead with joy and not with grief, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17 BSB)
Especially impactful to me was the phrase, “they keep watch over your souls.”
It was how I felt. I felt that God had given me the responsibility to lead these young souls in the way of the Lord. That part of the job was up to me.
My responsibility could be joyful, or it could be a grievous responsibility. That part, whether it was joyful or grievous, I could not control very much. I had some control over my attitude, but I could not control whether or not the kids would make my job joyful or grievous. That part was up to them.
On some days it was undoubtably grievous. The girls had their petty jealousies, and the boys had their competitive quarrels. It was like I spent the entire day lecturing and scolding, and bawling them out.
But on other days (and I will say on the overwhelming majority of days), it was almost pure joy. We worked and we joked and we laughed. We talked about everything and we talked about nothing. We made fun of each other and we made fun of ourselves. There seemed to be no hurts and no one left out. We were one big, happy family.
And at the end of the summer, all of those grievous days were forgotten. What was left was joy so that I could write to each kid, “In every prayer for you, I always pray with joy, because of how you worked with me in the gospel from the first day and even until now. And I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
A Different Sort of Leadership Responsibility
Fast forward in time with me now. Fast forward forty years from that Ireland trip. Today, I am once again in a position of leadership. It was not necessarily my choice, but in this time, I find myself as a pastor. This time my “team” is not a group of teenagers, but mostly those on the other end of the journey of life. Most of us in this church (not all) are in or near the age of retirement.
This also is a new experience to me. I have never before been the leader of a group of mostly retirees. Of course, many of the challenges are different in nature. I don’t have to ask you if you remembered your passport or ask you every day if you completed your work. I am not the person you come to if you are feeling ill, if you get hurt, or if you miss your home.
But what is truly amazing to me that some of the challenges that I had in leadership with these young teenage kids are exactly the same with septuagenarians and octogenarians. Like forty years ago, in these days I also see jealousies, bickerings, harboring bitterness, speaking evil of one another, and people who refuse to ask forgiveness or who refuse to forgive. I see people who prefer to hold on to grudges instead of letting them go. I see people who feed these resentments and allow them to become a deep bitterness in their souls.
Oh, we are more refined, of course. After all, we have had decades to perfect the ways in which we tear each other down. Now we can achieve many of our goals simply by a cold shoulder and a single snide remark. I have seen it and I have heard it among you. I have heard words spoken which I know were meant specifically to hurt someone.
We may think that we have become more refined in our abuse of others, but do we not see that some of our actions are no different than the verbal bullying tactics of junior high kids? We are sixty and seventy-year-olds still bullying our peers by our words, and acting like spoiled children.
I have even heard words of a couple of you that you spoke to people outside of our church about the people here. You have extended your poisonous words and slander about our church even to your friends!
And then you expect them to come to our church?! If I were them, your words would tell me—“stay away at all cost!” (and they have).
I have seen some of you refuse ask for forgiveness or refuse to forgive. You hold on to your hurt and feed your bitter souls. You speak evil of one another. Do not think of words that others have said, but thing of words that you have said. What poison has dripped from your lips?
I have grown so weary of all of this! What will it take to change?
How We Handle Disagreements
Too often, I have also seen how many here handle disagreements. They express themselves simply by leaving the church. They stop attending. Some have left for good, and some leave for months, returning only when they think that by their absence, the rest of the church has “learned their lesson.”
Nothing is changed. Nothing is ever resolved. These people might come back, but they do not return with forgiveness or humility. They refuse to say what the problem is so that we can work on it. They only return with the same poisonous words and insinuations, ready to continue to grow the bitterness. There is a lot of passive aggressiveness in our church.
It’s “the Tripoli way,” I tell Vivian.
Frankly and as I have said, I have grown weary. You hired me to teach the Word of God, and that is what I have done. You did not hire me to be a junior high school guidance counselor. If you wanted that, that is who you should have hired, but I refuse to enter into your petty jealousies and rivalries. And I will also say this: I greatly resent the fact that some of you are trying to bring my wife into the middle of your competitions and jealousies.
As for myself, if I am to stay at the Log Church, I am going to concentrate on Bible study—teaching and preaching from the Bible and applying it to our own lives. If you want to grow in your faith and learn to walk in the way of Jesus, then I encourage you to stay.
But if your main concern is who does the garden, or who is doing their share of the work, or if the church is clean enough, or who you will work with and who you won’t work with, or if the music is just right, then frankly, I wish you would just leave. Go and bring your poison elsewhere. I would prefer to have a half a dozen people who show up with hearts that are eager to learn and to grow in Christ than a church full of people who bring with them their jealousies and bickerings, and who refuse to learn and refuse to change.
If you were teenage kids, I would be more patient and help you to learn. But you are old and your negative attitudes have controlled your life for too long. If you do not let Jesus heal you, you will never be healed. Frankly, a guidance counselor could not help you. Only Jesus can help you. If you refuse to be helped by Him, then not me, not any guidance counselor, not any other person with whom you share your poisoned soul—no one can help you. You are left to your own misery and your own jealousies.
The Inevitable Sands of Time
If you did not notice, your biological clocks are running. If your spiritual clock is not keeping pace, you will have much to answer for when you see Jesus. As he has told us, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). There may not be much time for you, for the spring of the biological clock is getting a little weak.
If after a lifetime of having the opportunities to grow in Christ, all that you have to present to Jesus are a bunch of excuses and “what she said about me,” or “do you know what he did to me,” then you are in trouble.
Do not expect to hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”
Why We are Not having Communion in our Church Today
And now I come to the Scripture teaching for today. It comes from the book of First Corinthians. Again these are Paul’s words, and again, they are to a church that he had started. This was a different church, this one in the city of Corinth. Paul writes:
In the following instructions I have no praise to offer, because your gatherings do more harm than good. First of all, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. And indeed, there must be differences among you to show which of you are approved.
Now then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat. For as you eat, each of you goes ahead without sharing his meal. While one remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have your own homes in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What can I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? No, I will not!
The problems of that church, as you can see, were different in some regards to those problems that are in our church. Nevertheless, at the heart, they are the same. Divisions, petty bickerings and backbitings, people thinking only of themselves, gatherings that are doing more harm than good.
Do you so despise the church of God that you bring these poisonous attitudes into His presence? Are you trying to tear down what God is building?
Next, Paul begins his teaching on the Lord’s Supper:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Proclaiming the Death of Jesus
Did you hear that final phrase? “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
I have always said that in our observance of the Lord’s Supper, there are two ways in which we can proclaim the death of Jesus. We can proclaim it with joy in the fact that He has carried our sin with Him to the cross, He died with our sin upon Him, and He was resurrected in a new and righteous body, leaving our sin in the grave. Our sin remained dead, while He rose to life.
That is one way in which we can proclaim his death. The other is this:
Jesus died, willing to bear our sin. He took upon Himself the sin of the world. We watched him die, but we refused to let go of our sin. We loved our sin, so we kept it to ourselves. He died, but our sin did not die with Him. We were not among those who were cleansed by His blood. Rather, we were among those who mocked His death. We were among those who taunted His death. Indeed, we were among the Roman soldiers who drove the spikes through his hands and feet and drove the spear deep into His side.
In which of these groups are you? That is why there are differences in our church. As Paul said, “Indeed, there must be differences among you to show which of you are approved.” It is the fruits of our lives that reveal who we truly are (Matthew 7:20).
And that is why we are not observing the Lord’s Supper today. It is because as Paul writes:
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Each one must examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have died.
The Lost Lessons of Lent
It was not many weeks ago that we passed through the season on the church calendar known as Lent. During Lent we were to deny ourselves of one specific activity in our daily lives to remind us and to confirm within us that our life does not arise from items that we have or consume, or from activities that we do. Our life arises only from Christ. We were to learn to self-examine ourselves. We were to come to realize one thing about ourselves that is keeping us from growing in Christ. We were to judge ourselves.
Thus, Paul continues: “Now if we judged ourselves properly, we would not come under judgment. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” (Scriptures from 1 Corinthians 11)
The Way of Jesus vs. the Tripoli Way
We understand that as long as there are imperfect people, there will always be conflict. What are we to do about it? Are we to take the Tripoli Way and spew poison from our lips before we simply leave?
There is another way. It is the way of Jesus. Here is what he said. It is not complicated:
If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen also to them, then you may tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, regard him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)
This is the way of Jesus. It is a better road. On this road you will be able to let go of your bitterness of soul. On this road every step will lead you further into joy. Around every bend in the road is new contentment, and at the crest of every hill new visions of what is to come.
The choice is yours. You are the one who is walking, and no one can tell you on which road you must walk. If you remain on your own road, you will always be alone. You will be alone with your own bitterness of soul and you will die in your wretchedness.
But if you walk the road of Jesus, you will always be walking with a companion. You will be walking with a guide. You will be walking with your Savior.
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)
The Log Church Bulletin
July 3, 2022
When the Man Come Around (Johnny Cash) (211) Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around Lyric Video - YouTube
Call to Worship
To have a true worship service, all must come with an open and honest attitude. We must not come harboring resentments and slander in our hearts. We must come asking the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from any attitude from the world that fights against the pure Spirit of God.
Dear God our heavenly Father, we come to you today in humility. We dare not lift our heads to you, for we as a church have acted wickedly. We have spoken words to one another and about one another than have not only been unkind, but have been deliberately hurtful.
Perhaps the very worst thing about how we have acted toward one another is that we have not asked for forgiveness. We have not tried to change our manner, but have chosen instead to allow these evils to grow within us.
Help us in this day to change. We need your Holy Spirit within us. We cannot do this by ourselves. Amen.
Selected Reading – Proverbs 18:21, 12:18, James 1:26
Life and death are in the power of the tongue.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts.
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not bridle his tongue, he deceives his heart and his religion is worthless.
Our gracious Father, today we have much to confess. In our church many evil words have been spoken against one another. We say that we love our brothers and sisters, but the words that we have used to speak to them and about them have been evil. Please forgive us, and help us to seek forgiveness also from those whom we have hurt. Amen
Words of Assurance
Did you truly mean those words? Every Sunday in our bulletin we read various words of confession. We confess different aspects of our lives so that we will walk in holiness.
But it is not enough to speak the words only. We must also support what we say by how we live.
If you are merely repeating words without meaning them in your heart, then I have no “words of assurance” from God for you. I only have the words of Jesus:
“I tell you that for every careless word that people speak, they will give an account of it on the day of judgment. by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned…The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man.” (Matthew 12:36-37, 15:18)
The Lord’s Prayer
Song of Confession #166 – Cleanse Me
OT – Leviticus 19:16-18; Psalm 52:2-5
You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people…
I am the LORD.
You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may certainly rebuke your neighbor, but you are not to incur sin because of him.
You shall not take vengeance, nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself;
I am the LORD.
Your tongue devises destruction like a sharpened razor, O worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good, falsehood more than speaking truth (Consider these words!)
You love every word that devours, O deceitful tongue.
Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin;
He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent;
He will uproot you from the land of the living.
NT – James 3:8-12, Ephesians 4:29-32
No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers, this should not be! Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
Can a fig tree grow olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tenderhearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.
Responsorial Reading From Psalm 141
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch at the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to any evil thing
Or take part in works of wickedness with those who do iniquity;
Let the righteous man strike me;
Let his rebuke be an act of loving devotion.
It is oil for my head; let me not refuse it.
For my prayer is ever against the deeds of the wicked.
Keep me from the snares they have laid for me,
And from the lures of evildoers.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets.
These are the words of the Lord
Praise be to God!
Message Why We are not Having Communion Today
Song of Dedication #394 – I Surrender All
Prayer of Intercession
Our gracious Father, only those who seek righteousness have the privilege to intercede for others. With the poison that has spilled forth from our lips in this church, how can we presume that we can pray for others?
“If I see that there is iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18).
We as a church have acted in wickedness. Our tongues in this church have been used for evil. Before interceding for others, we humbly ask you for forgiveness and ask you to create in us a clean heart.
We only ask that you cleanse us today, and that you bring us to a proper relationship with one another and with You, so that we may again have the gift of prayer to intercede for others.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence; O Lord,
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation,
And renew a right spirit within me.
Benediction and prayer